06 October 2009
Yet again the govt blows it
So, the entire internet is buzzing with the whole thing about the FTC making rules about product endorsement and reviewing. Simply put, some poor clueless bureaucrat is trying to apply this rule unilaterally, from big names paid to endorse pharmaceuticals to readers who just want to share a good read with their friends on MySpace and blogs.
Never mind that our biggest problem is piracy. They can't be bothered to deal with that. They want to cut the lines of our beloved reviewers or make it more difficult for them to function.
A reader-reviewer asked how they can do this, since her blog should be covered by freedom of speech. This was my reply...
Freedom of speech is only applicable when used responsibly. Now, I don't think book reviews are irresponsible. Let me start by saying that. Inciting violence is irresponsible. Libel is. Harassment is. Fraud is. And guess what? Those things are still able to be prosecuted when perpetrated on a blog. But, otherwise...yes. You're supposed to have freedom of speech.
If you say something mean about your boss, he can fire you. Doing that on a blog or in a tweet is not only irresponsible, it's stupid. Stupidity should be painful. But, beyond that...and back to the subject...
What does this law do? It institutionalizes something that has been a friendly sort of sharing of interests. Someone reads a book, talks about their opinion of the book, other book lovers read the review and may or may not respond (starting a discussion about joint interests) or choose to purchase said book. Many reviewers (not all) are just normal folks...readers we all know and love. A few of them are also in the industry: authors, editors, publishers, review site owners, professional book reviewers... But by and large, we review because we love books and want to share that interest with others. Not for pay. No one's getting rich here. But this law applies the sensibilities of industry professionals to those who do this for enjoyment...and they apply it wrong, to boot!
Wrong how? Giving away print ARCs is frowned upon. It's not technically illegal, despite the disclaimers on it. But since many publishers have a no resell policy for review copies, it's unethical to break that agreement. Giving away or reselling e-book copies given for review is breaking copyright law and possibly DMCA (unless it's a Creative Common or other free read style the author has given you permission to give away). The writers of this article say that giving away the book after reading it absolves you from this rule. Clueless about the industry much? Yes, they are.
But, the bottom line is, the FTC passed this atrocity. What does that mean? It means that, when I tell you that I absolutely adore the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld (YA fantasy), I have to also tell you that I received a free PDF copy of the book in a promotion Simon and Schuster had to promote the series by giving away the first book, but that I further bought the entire series in print for myself and my family. Therefore, I have no financial ties to S&S and/or Scott Westerfeld, the series' author, and was not 'paid' to endorse the series.
Now, my behind has been properly covered. Doesn't that feel better? Picture my eyes rolling in annoyance.